In the wheels of the pros

On location in Girona – Rapha’s Girona Routes:

‘Hell’s Angels’ Loop (67km, with 1,193m elevation gain)
Seaside Out ’n’ Back (95km, with 1,442m elevation gain)
Our Lady of the Mountains (146km, with 3,132m elevation)

A professional cyclist can easily spend up to half the year on the road. In stop-start bursts of check-ins and baggage reclaim, of anonymous hotels and days lost on team buses, the pro lifestyle is a nomadic one. And in between racing, these travelling men and women need a home that guarantees great training routes, reliable weather, and people to go riding with.

Climbing in Girona

Girona, the location of the Rapha Pro Team Flyweight Sunglasses photoshoot, is one such halfway house adopted by anglophone riders. Set between the Pyrenees and the Costa Brava coastline, the charming catalonian city has become known for hosting pro cyclists ever since Lance Armstrong and his U.S. Postal Service crew rocked up in the mid 90s looking for a European base.

Today, dozens of riders still call Girona ‘home’, including Dan Craven, formerly of the Rapha-Condor team, and an invaluable guide on the best roads to ride: “The area around Girona has got every type of terrain you want: steep, gradual, and flat,” he says. “The road surfaces are amazing. It just keeps going – more roads, more roads and more roads. I’ve never been to a place where the drivers treat cyclists so well, either.”

Girona landscape

It isn’t just the riding. A stroll through the historic Old Town offers a glimpse of what the now-retired pro Michael Barry once called “an affluent, educated, cultured community”. Catalans are a proud people, and the yellow and red flag of the region flies freely from balconies and car windows, proving the spirit of independence still burns fiercely. The spanish language is tolerated, catalan expected. For cyclists, the Mediterranean siesta is the perfect match for the daily routine, providing some post-ride shut eye, and the culinary offerings emphasise quality over quantity – handy for those looking to maintain race weight.

Rapha took its riders on a few of Craven’s favourite training haunts for the photoshoot, and you can download the three routes above. Just outside of town, the Els Angels-Santa Pellaia loop offers two beautifully winding, medium-size climbs through the trees, with a break for coffee at the enchanting Madremanya village highly recommended. For those enamoured with a sea view, the ride south takes you over a punchy little hill before the reward of the coastline.

Girona tunnel

Finally, a monster ride taking in the region’s two best-known climbs, Mare de Déu del Mont and Rocacorba, is tough enough to put anyone on their knees. Don’t be too disheartened if you don’t get near to the times of British pro Adam Yates, who reigns over most of the Strava segments around here. Just focus on your own effort, and enjoy the sublime riding on offer in every direction.

Rapha Travel offers Pro Team Camps and Retreats in Girona each year.